September 28, 2022

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A two-time minister of Education and Health in the Second Republic, Prof Ihechukwu Madubuike, shares his thoughts on politics, insecurity and other issues affecting the nation with CHUKWUDI AKASIKE
The Nigerian Peoples Party (now defunct) was a cosmopolitan party with members such as Adeniran Ogunsanya, T.O.S. Benson, Kola Balogun, Matthew Mbu and others. Do you think there has been a national party that has replicated the aspirations of the Igbo on a national scale since the time of the late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe?
The answer is yes. One feature of the Nigeria Peoples Party founded by Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim of Borno State was that most of its leaders were First Republic politicians, associates of the great Nnamdi Azikiwe. They included Chief Olu Akinfosile, Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya, Chief Matthew Mbu, Ardo Ibrahim, Michael Ogon, Sam Mbakwe, RBK Okafor and others. Zik’s entry into the party caused a split and Alhaji Ibrahim parted ways with his colleagues and formed the Great Nigeria Peoples Party. Olu Akinfosile was the immediate chairman of the party, but was succeeded by Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya. Paul Unongo was the secretary. So, it was not an Igbo party by any stretch of the imagination. The Igbo were later to rally behind it when the Owelle decided to carry the flag of the party as its presidential candidate. He won Anambra and Imo and Plateau states and made impressive showing in some other states. None of the other parties won enough seats to form a government alone. They were obliged to woo the NPP, the beautiful bride.
The National Council of Nigeria and Cameroons founded by Herbert Macaulay and Nnamdi Azikiwe in 1944 was to wield the heterogeneous masses of Nigeria into one solid block. Zik was initially the general secretary of the party before becoming its president in 1946. He used his numerous newspapers to show the light that people might see. He also made the NCNC the only nationalist party of its time. Zik spoke the three major Nigerian languages fluently and this made him acceptable to many Nigerians. If you want to speak of a detribalised Nigerian, Nnamdi Azikiwe was its quintessence. He was a colossus who towered above everyone else in his time. He wrote in the New York Times; Nnamdi Azikiwe towered over the affairs of Africa’s most populous nation, attaining the rare status of a truly national hero, who came to be admired across the regional ethnic lines dividing the country.

With the resignation of Peter Obi from the Peoples Democratic Party and his decision to join the Labour Party where he has emerged the presidential candidate, do you think the Igbo can still have a shot at the presidency in 2023?
Peter Obi, I heard, could not tolerate the bad faith in the PDP and decided to part ways with it. It was his constitutional right to seek association with people of like minds. Definitely, the PDP betrayed the hope that many had reposed in it as a party that can bring the desired change that Nigeria needs urgently.
How do you appraise the performance of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)? Have Nigerians, especially the Igbo nation, enjoyed the dividends of democracy?

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President Buhari made it clear that he would not reward the Igbo because they did not vote for him. Yet it is on record that he got 25 per cent of the requisite spread in the South-East states.
Recently, some Igbo leaders pleaded with President Buhari to release Nnamdi Kanu from custody. Do you think his release from the custody of the DSS will bring lasting peace to the South-East?
It might. But remember that the circumstances that threw up Nnamdi Kanu preceded the agitation that led to his incarceration. Be that as it may, a political solution is the first step to address the state of anomie that is the South-East region presently. An eye for an eye will leave all of us blind; strong arm tactics will worsen the scenario.
What are the qualities that you would like to see in the President of Nigeria in 2023?
He must be visionary, courageous and fearless; he must be a patriot who can address the fault lines that have made Nigeria seem ungovernable, recognising the uniqueness of the component parts of the country and the need not see the solution to Nigeria’s problems as one size fits all. Political solution is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. And mercy blesses him that gives and him that takes.
As an international scholar, do you think the act of terrorism has taken an international dimension and is out of control of the Nigerian state?
You do not need to be a scholar, international or not, to know that terrorism can be imported. We live in a globalised world, which is also being digitalised. The digital world has its disruptions, as well as its benefits. Our government policy has not helped matters. It is not enough that the borders are porous; it has gone ahead to declare visa free for elements from certain countries.

There is generally a growing fear among the citizens over the increasing level of killings, kidnapping, armed robbery and other social vices in the country. How can these be stamped out?
Armed robbery, kidnapping and general insecurity are all symptoms of bad governance, of a society that has failed or is failing. There is acute poverty in the land, where the average Nigerian lives under $2 a day. That is the lot of over 70 per cent of the citizen, where some 80 per cent of the wealth is in the hands of some 20 per cent of the citizens. There is a strong relationship between acute poverty and state failure. Misgovernance is an incubator for terrorism and other societal vices.
What is your take on the killing of Deborah Samuel, the burning of churches in Sokoto and other parts of northern Nigeria as well as the killing of Harira Jubril and her four children by gunmen in the South-East?
The killing of anybody, whether Deborah or Harira, outside the law of the land, is condemnable and must not be encouraged.
Will you say that past governors of Abia State have achieved the dream of social change for the state?
Abia State is a dream deferred.
How much do you recall of the UPN, NPN and NPP days? Do you think governance in the Second Republic was better than now?

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The political parties of the Second Republic were recognisable and had character. The NPN was a conservative political party and made no pretence about it. The UPN and the NPP were more progressive in their ideological pretensions. Yet, President Shehu Shagari often told us that there were only two parties in the country; the military and the political parties. Military interventions led him to that conclusion. There is no comparison between the governments of the Second Republic and the misgovernance of today. A country can be measured by the strength of its currency. I was able to travel to London with a business class ticket for N400. There was less corruption. It was a thing of pride to be called a Nigerian. It was not called the poverty capital of the world or predicted to be a weak, a failing or a failed state.

How will you describe Zik of Africa and Sam Mbakwe? Has anyone been able to fill their shoes in the current dispensation?
The great Zik and Dee Sam Mbakwe were two of a kind, special gifts to mankind, imbued with the highest sense of patriotism. Zik was an African irredentist and Mbakwe an Igbo champion. Both were single-minded in the pursuit of what they believed in. We have not produced their replacements or types in our clime. They left giant footprints in the sands of time.
The level of insecurity in the South-East is worrisome. Many are already linking it to be part of the agitation for Biafra. How will you react to these?
Yes, the insecurity in the South-East has worsened. The mayhem is unprecedented and unless something urgent is done, it may get out of hand. In this matter, the government needs not be reactive or repressive. It is beyond being kinetic. The roadblocks manned by the police and military men have proved to be a ploy to collect money from vehicles that ply the eastern express roads. The separatist agitation is fast becoming an ideology and can be contained with a responsible and a different mindset. Intelligence gathering must be stepped up and applied wisely, while addressing the specific grouses that have escalated the agitation in the South-East.
You recently described Nigeria as a failed state, but some still believe the country is not yet a failed state and that the situation is still redeemable. How do you reconcile these?
The opinions may still be divided. A state is failed or disintegrated where basic conditions of sovereignty are totally or very much nonexistent. It no longer enjoys the trust of its people. Can we take the various calls by sections of the Nigerian community, like the Northern Elders Forum, and some religious organisations, for President Buhari to resign from office as a sign of loss of confidence? No doubt there are sovereignty gaps in Nigeria, enough to create trust deficits. There are other characteristics of state failure, including loss of control of territory, sharing legitimate use of force for the control of national territory with non-state actors, inability to provide public services, sharp economic declines, widespread criminality, endemic corruption, and uncontrolled immigration, sometimes sponsored by the government.

Yet to say that Nigeria is a failed state may spark vigorous denials by the minders of the status quo and their acolytes. What is not so controversial is that this government is a failure. Nigerians are not at ease anymore; definitely, less at ease than six or seven years ago when this administration came on board. Social services have failed, security has failed; speaking truth to power is almost an anathema. We are not covering the poverty traps and the poverty gaps. There are no sustainable safety nets that endure. Unemployment has hit the roofs. We are also not bridging the capability gaps, rather we seem to be glamorising them by letting over 10 millions of our educable youths to be out of school. There is still a deliberate lack of inclusivity and local content. The democratic ideal allows local content in administration in order to add local values and integrity in solving local problems.
The call to zone the presidency to the South-East has been ignored by the two major political parties despite the clamour for power shift by Ohanaeze Ndigbo and other groups. What is your view on this development?
The Peoples Democratic Party threw the door open to the highest bidder to grab the presidential ticket. The money is said to be in dollars, further causing the downsizing of our national currency. This has nothing to do with capacity, where you come from, or the ability to change the ruinous course of the Nigerian state. The All Progressive Congress is following the same path, unable to bring to fruition its zoning principle.
President Buhari is from the North; is there anything wrong if he hands over to a northern successor in 2023?
The issue is not whether another northerner should succeed a northerner. The issue is one of social inclusion, of power rotation in a putative democracy incarnated in the various party arrangements to show due diligence and processes in the context of power acquisition and in concert with the federal character principle as enshrined in the constitution. Shifting goal posts in the middle of the game is a reflex of impunity. It is also a sign of cowardice. It may turn out to be a quixotic undertaking, a journey into the absurd.
Apart from poor funding, what other factors stand as serious hindrance to the development of the education sector?
Policy somersaults. The education sector must embrace the new digital age. It should be innovative and problem solving, while affirming our cultural heritage.

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The major political parties in the country appear not to have changed in the handling of internal squabbles before general elections. What do you think is the problem and how can it be resolved?
Our political parties are not the aggregate of our national ideas, culture or values. We have not succeeded in building a national language, a ‘new tribe’ with one vision. Rather, we have a view of society that is characterised by conflicts, mutual suspicion, ethnic hatred and many dysfunctional views of society. Our political parties mirror this dystopian view of society and resort to a fire brigade approach to manage conflicts. It is a setback to democracy. If the parties do not aggregate and reflect the genuine interests of the masses in their activities, they should be considered moribund and a new recruitment process into party formation introduced. I think it was De Gaulle who said that the task of governance is too serious to be left for politicians.
The health sector is collapsing. As a former health minister, what can be done to save the sector?
Our health profile is not flattering at all. In 1996/1997, I worked out a health plan described by health experts as courageous, efficient, farsighted, affordable and implementable. Again, policy somersaults deprived Nigerians of the fruits of that plan. We set up an action plan with indices to monitor and evaluate progress for at least 10 years. The commitment was not there despite the verdict of many health professionals that it was the right step to follow for the remediation of the health sector. I urge this administration to review the documents produced by the first ever health summit chaired by the former deputy director of the World Health Organisation, the late Prof Adeoye Lambo. I did, however, get former Head of State, Gen Sani Abacha, to inaugurate the Revised National Health Insurance Scheme before I left office.

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